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Wells Fargo joins mobile wallet bandwagon as bank offerings take off

Wells Fargo will soon enable Android users to take advantage of an in-application wallet integration for making NFC payments from their smartphones, highlighting the thickening competition among financial institutions in the payments sector.

Wells Fargo is joining the slew of major retailers and banks rolling out standalone mobile wallets by introducing its proprietary offering to consumers this summer. The financial institution’s customers will be able to leverage the Wells Fargo app to make contactless purchases in bricks-and-mortar stores and conduct ATM transactions without needing a physical debit card, underscoring the necessity for banks to invest in mobile commerce-heavy features.

“Wells Fargo Wallet is another easy, convenient and secure way for our customers to make payments from an Android phone,” said Jim Smith, head of Wells Fargo Virtual Channels. “Across the globe, Wells Fargo team members have been using the wallet, and providing valuable feedback ahead of the product launch later this summer.

“Built in-house, it’s designed to provide a seamless banking experience for customers,” he said. “We know mobile is key to the future of payments, and we expect Wells Fargo Wallet to offer a unique experience for our customers, while providing us with a richer understanding of the quickly evolving payments landscape so that we can be better informed to innovate for customer needs.”

All-inclusive mobile banking
The Wells Fargo Wallet, which is slated to roll out this summer, adds users’ Wells Fargo debit and credit cards to its platform so that they can make seamless purchases by tapping their Android device against a contactless reader in a bricks-and-mortar store.

This eliminates the need for individuals to carry their physical wallets around with them during shopping excursions. Additionally, the bank’s mobile wallet users will be able to view pertinent account balance details within the Wells Fargo app before and after making a purchase, a feature that could prove useful for consumers with strict budgets.

Wells Fargo is attempting to stay competitive in the quickly evolving payments landscape by introducing the mobile wallet offering for Android users and giving them the ability to make NFC payments without having to set up an Android Pay or Samsung Pay account.

While Android Pay and Samsung Pay are unlikely to be majorly affected by Wells Fargo’s mobile wallet, the financial institution is hoping to persuade consumers to use its platform by monitoring all transactions with its risk and fraud detection systems, giving individuals an added layer of mobile security.

Mobile security has been a hotly contested topic since the inception of digital payment platforms, and has prompted some wallet providers to alter their services accordingly.

For example, the staying power of consumers’ wariness regarding security and digital wallets has prompted a slew of brands to enable customers to make mobile purchases using loyalty points, a trend likely to catch fire as the year progresses (see story).

This could prompt more individuals to hop on the mobile wallet bandwagon. Chase also offers its own digital wallet, called Chase Pay.

“Our customers love mobile banking, and it’s become the primary way in which millions of them interact with us daily,” Mr. Smith said. “We don’t currently provide detail around how many of our customers have used mobile wallets, but we’ve surpassed 17 million active mobile customers, and seen increased transaction growth as people use mobile devices to interact with Wells Fargo 20 or more times per month.”

Making mobile count
Customers will also be able to use the Wells Fargo Wallet to conduct transactions at ATMs without having a physical debit card present. The bank anticipates that more than 40 percent of its ATMs will be NFC-enabled before the end of the year.

The mobile wallet rollout arrives on the heels of a slew of other digital initiatives that have ramped up Wells Fargo’s competitiveness.

Last year, Wells Fargo reaped the benefits from its mobile-first outlook by revealing that it sent more than a half-billion SMS and email alerts to consumers’ smartphones, offering information on topics ranging from ATM withdrawals to bank account activity (see story).

Ultimately, while the mobile wallet may not be able to steal Android Pay or Samsung Pay’s thunder, the financial institution’s long-standing customers will likely find more utility and convenience in the offering.

“In addition to Wells Fargo Wallet, we are pleased to continue to provide Wells Fargo customers with our collaborative mobile payment options including Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay,” Mr. Smith said. “We want to satisfy our customers’ financial needs when, where and how they want, and allowing them to pay from any mobile wallet they choose helps us fulfill that promise.”